by JR Valrey of the Black New World Journalists Society
“For us as Black people and people of color, it is literally about life and death. We’ve had a number of people call 911 arbitrarily. It has led to Black people being harmed and in some cases ultimately killed. So we had to do something to stop people from weaponizing 911 and using it to promote their racist and prejudicial behavior,” said San Francisco District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton, the lawmaker who introduced the CAREN Act in an exclusive interview with Black New World Media for SF Bay View.
Weaponized 911 calling is historically related to how white women, regularly, would use lynch mobs to kill Black men on slave plantations by lying and saying that the Black man inappropriately approached them or raped them. So this “Karen” phenomenon goes back to slavery as well as to the murder of Emmitt Till.
In 2018, in San Francisco, Alison Ettle called the police on an 8-year-old Black child for selling water on the sidewalk without a permit. She was shamed by some in the community after going viral on social media and being nicknamed “Permit Patty.”
Right across the Bay, in Oakland in 2018, an incident made national headlines when a raging, racist, unprovoked white woman, Jennifer Schulte, dubbed “Barbecue Becky,” was caught on tape indefensibly calling the police on two Black men barbecuing and minding their business at Lake Merritt. When the police refused to act in a racist manner on her behalf, she broke down crying while being filmed.
Kenzie Mouton, one of the brothas “Barbecue Becky” attacked, and Jhamel Robinson ended up creating a well-attended annual festival called “Barbecuing While Black” to commemorate the people’s resistance to what many in social media are now calling the “Becky-Karen-Chad phenomenon,” where white people weaponize 911 calls against Black people and other people of color and oppressed groups. So although the Bay Area is viewed as one of the most progressive places in the country, it is still infested with racists cloaked in liberal and progressive vocabulary and clothing.
Although the Bay Area is viewed as one of the most progressive places in the country, it is still infested with racists cloaked in liberal and progressive vocabulary and clothing.
Another incident occurred in 2008, where a white manager by the name of Lois Withers, at the so-called “progressive” Berkeley radio station KPFA, called the police and lied stating that then-programmer Nadra Foster was a trespasser, although Nadra had been at KPFA producing on-air content for a decade prior. The result of the call was that Nadra Foster was kicked in her head, stomach and vagina, and she ended up losing the baby she was pregnant with and full control of one of her arms. She was then hogtied, arrested and brought out of the studio. Foster tried to sue, but then-KPFA legal counsel Dan Siegel and others engineered a defense where she got nothing. No one was fired, indicted, sued or in any way reprimanded.
The Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies Act, aka the CAREN Act, hit the floor of San Francisco’s City Hall on Tuesday, causing national headlines to focus on the San Francisco Bay Area’s style of resistance once again. This time the battleground is in the chambers of San Francisco City Hall.
“I introduced it on Tuesday. It will take about 60 days before it goes through all of the committees and lands on the mayor’s desk. After she signs it, it will become law,” said San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton.
“Existing California law makes filing false police reports a misdemeanor or a felony offense punishable by up to six months in jail,” according to San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton and California Assembyman Rob Bonta’s joint press release announcing the two Bay Area lawmakers “joining forces on discriminatory 911 calls,” released on Tuesday.
But there is no established penalty on the local, state or federal law books currently addressing the use of 911 to bully Black people, who are commonly terrorized and murdered by the police. Many prominent voices in the community are demanding that weaponized 911 calls be deemed a hate crime.
“Legislation being introduced at the state level by California Assemblyman Rob Bonta of Oakland, AB1550 has criminal and civil penalties. The CAREN Act has civil penalties now, but we’re working with City Attorney Dennis Herrera to try to institute criminal penalties in the form of fines in the near future.”
The so-called “progressive” Berkeley radio station KPFA called the police and lied, stating that then-programmer Nadra Foster was a trespasser, although Nadra had been at KPFA producing on-air content for a decade prior. The result of the call was that Nadra Foster was kicked in her head, stomach and vagina, and she ended up losing the baby she was pregnant with and full control of one of her arms.
This is being done in the shadow of last month, which saw over 50 cities all over the nation break out into mass protests and rebellions in response to the executions of Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed on camera by white vigilantes in Glynn County, Georgia, in February of 2020 and Breonna Taylor, who was murdered in March of 2020, in her sleep after police in Louisville, Kentucky, entered the wrong house on a no-knock warrant. Locally in April 2020, Steven Taylor, a mentally disabled Black man was executed by police in cold blood on a San Leandro Wal-Mart floor.
And in the case that made his 6-year-old daughter shout, “Daddy changed the world!” George Floyd was filmed on May 25, Memorial Day, as he was being executed by police officer Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on George’s neck for more than 8 and a half minutes, successfully suffocating him.
There is a war going on, where racist whites are using police departments to wantonly arrest, beat up and slaughter Black people nationwide, without a matched response, and weaponized 911 calls are their favorite initial go-to acts of aggression.
“We’re doing it at a state and local level. My hope is that (legislation against the use of weaponized 911 calls) spreads across the country because it’s a national problem,” said Supervisor Shamann Walton, former president and member of the San Francisco Board of Education.
The spirit of transformation and rebellion is currently in the air. Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price introduced a motion in June exploring “criminal penalties, rights of victims to bring private civil actions, and cost recovery by the City.”
In 2019, the City Commission in Grand Rapids, Michigan, held a hearing on a “proposed human rights ordinance” criminalizing racially motivated calls to 911 with a $500 fine.
Mainstream media has maliciously focused on and compared social media’s current nickname for racist white women, “Karen” with the initials that the soon to be law is known by, C.A.R.E.N.
“It’s actually an acronym. I don’t know anyone named ‘Karen’ who spells their name with a ‘C’,” said Supervisor Walton in response to the over publicized similarity. The Black community and its allies are educated and well aware of the history of mainstream media’s tactic of distracting its viewers, readers and listeners with trivial controversy instead of focusing on the actions of local white terrorists trying to get their local police forces to do their racist bidding, which costs Black lives.
“We’re just tired and fed up with people calling 911 for non-emergencies. Any action with law enforcement can get Black people and people of color killed. And that abuse has to stop,” explained San Francisco District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton.
The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey, journalist, author, filmmaker and founder of the Black New World Journalists Society, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook. Visit www.youtube.com/blockreporttv.